Carrie Coon

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

18/11/21

Cineworld

The original Ghostbusters movies were undemanding fun, I suppose, but I’m often astonished by the reverence with which they’re regarded, as though they are some kind of cinematic holy relics. The 2016 reboot, which featured female protagonists, may not have been wonderful, but it certainly didn’t deserve the levels of derision that were piled upon it from all quarters, with some observers complaining that their childhoods had been ‘destroyed.’ Really? At any rate, the events of that film have been brushed under the carpet and, for the purposes of this story, all has been quiet on the haunting front since the mid 1980s.

A lot of careful thought has clearly been put into Afterlife well before the cameras rolled. Directed by Jason Reitman (son of Ivan Reitman, who helmed the first two movies), this clever reboot places teenage protagonists at the heart of the story and it makes for such a perfect fit, I find myself thinking that this would have been a much more sensible approach back in the day. After all, the Ghostbusters films were clearly aimed at young audiences in the first place and that’s where they found their success. So why not make kids the driving force behind this new iteration?

After the breakup of her marriage, Callie (Carrie Coon) finds herself in dire financial straits, unable to pay the rent on the apartment she shares with her two kids, Phoebe (McKenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard, still able to pass for a fifteen-year-old at the grand old age of eighteen). Providence seems to provide an answer when Callie’s estranged grandfather dies, leaving her an old farmhouse in Summerville, Oklahoma. Soon, the three of them are attempting to settle in to the near derelict property, which is still stocked with familiar-looking equipment and, which Phoebe quickly discovers, seems to be haunted by a ghostly presence.

Phoebe enrols at the local summer school, where she encounters the affable ‘Podcast’ (Logan Kim), named because of… well, his obsession with recording podcasts. She also impresses likeable science teacher, Mr Grooberson (Paul Rudd), who has a proclivity for showing his classes highly inappropriate movies on VHS, while he gets on with his own singular obsession, that of studying the strange seismic activity that’s currently afflicting the area.

But of course, we all know that these are no ordinary earthquakes – and that, deep in an abandoned mine, supernatural forces are steadily gathering power…

The witty script (co-written by the director) effortlessly captures the nerdy humour of today’s teenagers and I like the fact that the film takes its time introducing the young leads before heading off into more spooktacular territory. The original films are suitably homaged (The Stay Puft Marshallow Man? Check! The Ectomobile? All present and correct!) and while there are inevitable guest appearances in the film’s final furlongs, this is never allowed to be ‘old-guys-coming-to-the-rescue-of-the-kids.’ No, Phoebe, Trevor and Podcast are running this operation, ably assisted by Sheriff’s daughter, Lucky (Celeste O’ Connor).

The film’s emotional conclusion could so easily have been mishandled but, like pretty much everything else here, it’s astutely done, managing to steer clear of mawkish pitfalls and just feeling warmly appropriate. When that familiar theme music kicks in, don’t be in too much of a hurry to leave the theatre. There’s a charming post-credit scene you won’t want to miss.

I like Ghostbusters: Afterlife a lot – in fact, at the risk of destroying a few more childhoods, I’d go so far as to say that, for my money, this might just be the best film of the franchise.

4.4 stars

Philip Caveney

The Nest

31/08/21

Cineworld

Commodities trader Rory O’ Hara (Jude Law) is an outwardly successful businessman. He is happily married to Allison (Carrie Coon), with whom he has two delightful children, his son, Ben (Charlie Shotwell), and stepdaughter, Sam (Oona Roche). The four of them dwell in a lovely home in New York and Allison is working successfully as a riding instructor. All things considered, Rory ought to be content with his life.

But something is bugging him, something he finds hard to deny. He wants…well, more – and he thinks he’s spotted a perfect chance to achieve it back in London, working for his former boss, Arthur (Michael Culkin). After all, it’s the 1980s, an era when any get-rich-quick scheme should be grabbed with both hands and dragged kicking and screaming into submission. This is an opportunity not to be missed!

Before any of his family can utter an objection, Rory has uprooted them and dragged them off to a mouldering mansion in the dark heart of Surrey. Yes, the place is virtually falling down around them, but Led Zeppelin once recorded an album here! Rory sets to work, purchasing a horse for Allison, building a stable for it and doing his utmost to push Arthur towards a lucrative contract with some America buyers he’s encountered. If it comes off, Rory will be rich beyond his wildest dreams. But what he’s clearly lost sight of is the happiness of his own family. Allison is struggling to tame that new horse. Ben is having trouble at the private school he’s been enrolled at. And Sam just feels as though she’s always having to settle for second best.

As Rory’s overpowering drive to be successful at any cost moves into top gear, the O’ Haras start to unravel, and there’s something about the house they’re living in that feels more and more unsettling…

The Nest demonstrates an unusual – perhaps unique – approach to its theme, utilising all the tropes of a contemporary horror movie and applying them to a story about a family in turmoil. The oppressive atmosphere and Richard Reed Parry’s creepy soundtrack continually hint at the possibility of something supernatural lurking in the woodwork, but it gradually becomes clear that the ravenous beast that haunts this home is Rory’s vaulting ambition – that constant yearning for success that he can no longer control.

Rory’s brief visit to his mother (played by the ever-dependable Anne Reid) goes some way to explain how he’s become the venal, boastful creature that he is, but it doesn’t really excuse him, when he can no longer seem to open his mouth without attempting to impress whoever is unfortunate enough to be listening. A horrified Allison witnesses his descent and begins to go off the rails herself.

Both Law and Coon offer superb performances here, capturing the rapid disintegration of the couple’s relationship. Writer/director Sean Durkin helms the piece with great control, gradually racking the tension up another notch as he steers his ship into tragedy. And as for those supernatural possibilities… well, there is one thing here that is never rationally explained – and it will play on your mind after you’ve left the cinema.

4.2 stars

Philip Caveney